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Chamois [EBD]

only in Deut. 14:5 (Heb. zemer), an animal of the deer or gazelle species. It bears this Hebrew name from its leaping or springing. The animal intended is probably the wild sheep (Ovis tragelephus), which is still found in Sinai and in the broken ridges of Stony Arabia. The LXX. and Vulgate render the word by camelopardus, i.e., the giraffe; but this is an animal of Central Africa, and is not at all known in Syria.

Chamois [NAVE]

CHAMOIS, a species of antelope, Deut. 14:5.


(pronounced often shame), the translation of the Hebrew zemer in (14:5) But the translation is incorrect; for there is no evidence that the chamois have ever been seen in Palestine or the Lebanon. It is probable that some mountain sheep is intended.


CHAMOIS - sham'-i, sha-mwa', sha-moi' (zemer; kamelopdrdalis): Occurs only once in the Bible, i.e. in the list of clean animals in Dt 14:5. Gesenius refers to the verb zamar, "to sing," and suggests the association of dancing or leaping, indicating thereby an active animal. M'Lean in Encyclopedia Biblica cites the rendering of the Targums dica', or "wild goat." Now there are two wild goats in Palestine. The better known is the ibex of the South, which may well be the ya`el (English Versions, "wild goat"; Job 39:1; Ps 104:18; 1 Sam 24:2), as well as the 'aqqo (English Version, "wild goat," Dt 14:5). The other is the pasang or Persian wild goat which ranges from the Northeast of Palestine and the Syrian desert to Persia, and which may be the zemer (English Versions "chamois"). The accompanying illustration, which is taken from the Royal Natural History, shows the male and female and young. The male is distinguished by its larger horns and goatee. The horns are in size and curvature very similar to those of the ibex (see GOAT, section 2) , but the front edge is like a nicked blade instead of being thick and knotty as in the ibex. Like the ibex it is at home among the rocks, and climbs apparently impossible cliffs with marvelous ease.

Tristram (NHB) who is followed by Post (HDB) suggests that zemer may be the Barbary sheep (Ovis tragelaphus), though the latter is only known to inhabit the Atlas Mountains, from the Atlantic to Tunis. Tristram supports his view by reference to a kebsh ("ram") which the Arabs say lives in the mountains of Sinai, though they have apparently neither horns nor skins to show as trophies, and it is admitted that no European has seen it. The true chamois (Rupicapra tragus) inhabits the high mountains from t he Pyrenees to the Caucasus, and there is no reason to suppose that it was ever found in Syria or Palestine.

Alfred Ely Day

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